Pros and Cons of Becoming an OB/GYN Technician
OB/GYN technicians can help care for pregnant patients by either specializing in surgical technology or diagnostic medical sonography. Reading the pros and cons of becoming an OB/GYN technician can help you decide which career path to follow.
|Pros of Becoming an OB/GYN Technician|
|Faster-than-average employment growth expected for sonographers (46% between 2012 and 2022)*|
|A certificate or associate's degree can be sufficient for entry-level jobs in surgical technology or sonography*|
|Licensure isn't typically required for surgical technologists or sonographers*|
|Both surgical technologists and sonographers can work in various healthcare settings*|
|Cons of Becoming an OB/GYN Technician|
|For sonographers, advancement usually requires additional training*|
|Surgical technologists and sonographers may be required to work evenings, weekends and holidays*|
|As a surgical technologist or sonographer, you might be on your feet for long periods of time*|
|Sonographers may be required to lift heavy patients*|
|Surgical technologists could be exposed to communicable diseases, and they might encounter unpleasant sights and odors*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Description and Duties
An OB/GYN technician's main job is to assist physicians and nursing staff in caring for pregnant women or new mothers; however, their duties vary based on their career path. Basic duties for surgical technologists may include preparing the birthing center; preparing, transporting and positioning patients; and ensuring that surgical instruments are inspected and cleaned. They may also obtain and document patient information for medical records. Surgical technologists assist surgeons during procedures, while also helping care for patients.
Medical sonography - the use of sound waves to create an image of the body - is used to examine and monitor the health and growth of a developing baby in utero. OB/GYN sonographers take images of the entire female reproductive system. In addition to being less harmful to mother and child than traditional x-rays, ultrasounds can often reveal conditions not found with x-rays.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of surgical technologists was projected to grow 30% between 2012 and 2022, while medical sonographers could see employment growth of 46% for the same decade. The BLS also reported that surgical technologists earned a mean annual wage of around $45,010 as of May 2014; diagnostic medical sonographers earned around $68,390.
What Are the Requirements?
Both surgical technology and diagnostic medical sonography programs have competitive admissions processes. Applicants generally must have a high school diploma or the equivalent, complete prerequisite courses and meet academic standards. Proof of current immunizations and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification may also be required.
To become an OB/GYN technician, you need to complete a training program leading to a certificate or associate's degree. The curricula for both surgical technology and sonography programs include didactic studies with clinical education in hospitals or other medical facilities.
As a medical sonography student with an emphasis in OB/GYN, you can expect to take courses in instrumentation, applied sonography, obstetrics/gynecology, high-risk obstetrics, ultrasound breast imaging and OB/GYN procedures. As a surgical technology student, your courses might cover topics such as controlling and preventing infection, sterile techniques, anatomy and physiology, medical terminology and surgical procedures.
Licensing and Certification
Some states and the District of Columbia regulate the work of surgical technologists. In the states that have regulations, you might need to graduate from an accredited program and earn professional certification. Additionally, a handful of states require that diagnostic medical sonographers be licensed. Certification is usually required to obtain a license, and certification must be kept current through continuing education.
In addition to completing formal training and obtaining work experience, you should possess the following skills to be successful in your career:
- Ability to handle stress
- Manual dexterity
- Ability and desire to care for others
- Good communication skills
- Ability to maintain a professional attitude
What Employers Are Looking For
Employers of OB/GYN technicians typically seek job candidates who have completed training and possess knowledge of the profession. Below are some examples of jobs that were open in March 2012.
- A Denver clinic was seeking a full-time OB/GYN ultrasound technician. The candidate needed to have completed an accredited ultrasonographer program, have ARDMS (American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography) and Basic Life Support certification and have at least one year of experience as an OB/GYN ultrasound technician.
- A healthcare service provider in Dallas was seeking an experienced registered ultrasound technician. Candidates needed experience with various ultrasound machines and Microsoft-based computer systems. Educational requirements included a high school diploma or GED, graduation from an accredited ultrasound program and RDMS (Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer) specialty certification in OB/GYN.
- An Omaha medical center was looking for an OB technician to assist with the care of women in the labor and delivery suite. The technician would assist in the preparation, maintenance and care of the labor and delivery room as well as equipment and supplies. The OB technician also would assist in transporting patients to and from the delivery room. This was an on-call position. Applicants needed a high school diploma or GED, Basic Life Support certification and experience as an OB technician or operating room technician.
How to Get an Edge in the Field
To get an edge in the field, you may want to pursue certification even if it's not a requirement in your state. This can help demonstrate your proficiency and commitment to potential employers.
As a surgical technologist, you can obtain certification from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) by passing a certification examination. You must complete 60 hours of continuing education within four years to maintain certification. The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) also offers several certifications to eligible candidates.
As a diagnostic medical sonographer, you can obtain certification through ARDMS by passing a certification examination. If your goal is to specialize in OB/GYN, you'll can obtain an obstetrics and gynecology certification through ARDMS. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) also offers certification to sonographers.
Alternative Career Paths
If you're interested in working in the medical field but are looking in a different direction than OB/GYN technician, there are several other career paths you can choose.
Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician
If you want a career that requires less patient contact, you might consider a position as a clinical laboratory technician or technologist. Most of your time will be spent in a laboratory, but you can gain satisfaction in knowing you play a large role in the treatment and diagnosis of disease. A technician career usually requires an associate's degree, while technologists need a bachelor's degree. Licensure may be required for you to work in this field.
Clinical lab technicians earned a median salary of around $37,000 as of May 2011, while clinical lab technologists earned a median of approximately $57,000 per year, according to the BLS. The bureau also projected that workers in these professions could see employment growth of 13% between 2010 and 2020.
As a medical assistant, you'll perform both clinical and administrative duties. Although you may receive on-the-job training, you might find a formal training program to be more beneficial to your employment options. Training includes coursework and clinical education to give you hands-on experience. The BLS predicted that medical assistants could see employment growth of 31% between 2010 and 2020, which was much faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual wage for medical assistants was around $29,000 as of 2011.